In recent memory the Welterweight division has been one of the most significant divisions to the sport, with huge super fights and some of the sports most popular fighters competing in the division. Right now it's still an important division but does seem to be waiting for it's next super fight. Fighters like Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Terence Crawford all look like they are going to be part of the the next generation of divisional super fights, yet none are currently looking like they are set to clash, at least not for now.
With the new generation coming through we're at an interesting position in the division with two veterans set to face off this coming Sunday with WBA champion Lucas Martin Matthysse (39-4-0-1, 36) defending his title against Filipino boxing idol Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38) in Kuala Lumpur. Both have looked like they are a long way removed from their best, with their last outings showing them to be shadows of their former selves. Matthysse was last seen in the ring defeating Teerachai Kratingdaenggym for the title back in January, but had struggled before pulling out an 8th round KO of the Thai. Pacquiao on the other hand hasn't fought since his controversial loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017. Added to their poor recent performances are their ages, with Pacquiao 39 years old, 40 in December, and Matthysse being 35, 36 in September. Neither man is a youngster, both have looked poor, and both will know that anything but a win here will likely end their career's.
Of the two men it's certainly Pacquiao who has had the more distinguished career. The Filipino Southpaw has been one of the few fighters to transcend the sport and is seen as not only a boxing icon but a key Filipino figure and a key sporting figure. He has turned his boxing success into a political career in his homeland and is well known for his charitable work outside of the ring. Inside the ring he was, arguably, the most destructive man in the sport for over a decade starting in 1998, when he stopped Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC Flyweight title right through to 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto for the WBO Welterweight title.
At his very best Pacquiao was an aggressive, fast, combination punching Phenom with brutal power in his left hand, and explosive quickness. Sadly Pacquiao of the last few years has lost a lot of what made him special. His intensity and energy are gone, the fire seems to be going out, and at 39 there is real question marks regarding what he still has left in the tank. Even when he has dominated fighters, like Jessie Vargas, Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios, there hasn't quite been the same desire in his eyes as there was during his peak. Given his inactivity and age there is real questions as to whether he can even show glimpses of his old self.
Matthysse was, for a long time, one of the best active fighters to never win a proper world title. Between 2010 and 2014 he went from being an obscure Argentinian fighter in his homeland to being recognised as a leading Light Welterweight. He did that by travelling to the US and facing the likes of Zab Judah, Devon Alexander, Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. Whilst he would pick up some losses during that run, including very controversial ones to Judah and Alexander, he had proven he belong in the mix and claimed the WBC interim title along the way. He had also made fans, his exciting, power based style, made him an almost instant fan favourite and later wars with John Molina and Ruslan Provodnikov were both sensational action bouts.
Sadly for Matthysse a loss to Viktor Postol in 2017 caused Matthysse career to stall as he suffered a serious eye injury and would be out of the ring for over a year. Since then he has scored wins over Emmanuel Taylor and Teerachai, but looked a shadow of himself against the Thai, who made Matthysse look old, clumsy and slow.
This isn't so much of a super fight between two notable veterans with exciting styles. It's more of a retirement bout in our eyes, with the loser literally having no where to go. The winner will have a bargaining chip for another big fight down the line. But even then it's unlikely they'll manage to pick up another notable win, given how poor they looked last time out. We suspect Pacquiao's inactivity and age will be his downfall here, but given how poor Matthyse looked against Teerachai there is a good chance that Pacquiao will use what's left of his speed to pick up one more huge win for his legacy.
One of the big boxing revelations of 2017 was Thai power puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who made his US debut and took a close decision over Roman Gonzalez for the WBC Super Flyweight title. The Thai then went back to the US and scored a second win over Gonzalez, knocking out the Nicaraguan great to really prove his first win wasn't a fluke. This coming weekend we see another Thai make his US debut with the hopes of breaking out from obscurity and beating a recognisable name from Latin America.
The Thai in question is Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (38-0, 28), a rare Thai who fights at Welterweight. Despite his long unbeaten record he hasn't really made a mark of any kind outside of Asia, though is a fighter who has been in more than 30 PABA title fights and has certainly made a mark on the regional scene. Despite being a fixture on the Pacific and Asian boxing scenes he is a total known compared to his upcoming foe, hard hitting Argentinian star Lucas Martin Matthysse (38-4-0-1, 35), who has fought numerous bouts in the US during his exciting career.
Although unknown in the West Teerachai has been scoring notable C tier wins during his career, which began just over 10 years ago. These have included wins over Dan Nazareno Jr, Romeo Jakosalem, Randy Suico, Larry Siwu, and Vladimir Baez. None of those would be fit to test Matthysse, but in reality they are far from bad fighters, with Suico and Jakosalem being former OPBF champions and Baez now set for a Japanese title fight. The gap between them and Matthysse is huge, but they are decent wins for a rising contender, like Teerachai has been.
Teerachai has looked like a talented, but flawed, fighter coming through the ranks. He has appeared to depend a lot on his size and physical strength at times but can box, and his KO win against Baez showed that Teerachai can cope with very aggressive fighters and can counter that aggression well. His finishing shot against Baez was an absolute peach of a right hand, but he had also used a measured and stiff jab to keep Baez at range. That jab will have to be a key if he's to defeat the naturally smaller Matthysse,, but landing it on a world class fighter will be a million miles harder than it's been at the regional level.
Although a notable name now a days Matthysse was a relative unknown outside of Argentina early in his career. For some it wasn't until his controversial 2010 loss to Zab Judah that he managed to make a mark on the sport, with his even more controversial loss the following year to Devon Alexander really establishing him as being one to watch. Wins over Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Mike Dallas Jr and Lamont Peterson all showed that Matthysse was a definitive world class fighter, and despite a loss to Danny Garcia he has remained a fixture at world level, despite a stoppage loss in 2015 to Viktor Postol.
In the ring Matthysse is a viciously hard hitting fighter. He's tough, spiteful with his punches but can genuinely box rather well. He has often been regarded as crude and a slugger, but the reality is that he's a very solid boxer, who is just blessed with brutal power. Sadly he is now 35 with just 5 rounds under his belt in the last 2 years and is naturally quite a small fighter at 147lbs, despite being a huge puncher. Physically he's not much taller, or rangier, than Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and whilst he is very powerful it was clear that he can struggle with tall rangy fighters, as he did against Postol.
The Argentinian is the clear favourite. He's the more proven fighter, the more well known man and the one with the power. Though as we saw last year there is a gritty determination among Thai fighters, which sees them take a chance when offered one.
We're expecting to see Teerachai make the most of this huge opportunity and look to establish his jab, keep Matthysse at range and frustrate the ageing Argentinian. Matthysse at his best almost certainly sees off Teerachai within 5 or 6 rounds. But this version of Matthysse is 10 years older than Teerachai, has had wear and tear from bouts with Postol, Rusklan Provodnikov, John Molina Jr, Danny Garcia, Humberto Soto and many more others. We're going on on the limb and predicting the upset here, with a shock win for Teerachai.
They say that in life the best things come to those who wait and that wine becomes finer with age. Sadly however things can also spoil with age, the waiting process can go on too long and things can over-cook and end up burned. Around 5 years ago we were all wanting to see Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38) battle against unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26). It was, essentially, the one bout that could capture the attention of every boxing fan. It was, at the time, the two top fighters in the sport facing each other whilst both were still in their primes. At the time Mayweather was 33 and had just schooled the great Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao on the other hand was 31 and had just decimated Miguel Cotto.
Since then both men have slipped. Pacquiao, now 36, has gone 7-2 (0), he's been iced by Marquez and his much vaunted power has seemingly vanished along with his killer instinct. What we have now is a Pacquiao who seems to have lost a lot of what made him so special and the stoppages over Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are now looking like history. As for Mayweather, now 38, he's gone 7-0 (1) and has looked distinctly human in his last 2 bouts, both decision wins against Marcos Rene Maidana.
Despite the fact that neither man is what they used to be, the bout is now made and on May 2nd we finally see the two men sharing the ring together. The bout, the biggest in the history of the sport, will see the WBA, WBC and WBO Welterweight title all being unified. It will set all sorts of records, it will get the attention of the sporting world, and of course it will be the bout of the generation It will, essentially, decide the fighter of the generation and, regardless of the winner, it will leave many fans distraught at their man losing and many others jubilant that their man won. It will however feel, to some neutrals, like a bout that lost some shine due to the fact it took so long to get it done.
Anyway now that's out of the way lets look at what makes this bout so special. Firstly you have the two most popular fighters of their era and two men who have, essentially, been viewed as each others nemesis. Their achievements are both through the roof with world titles across a wide range of divisions. They are the two biggest draws in the sport, and among the very biggest draws across all of sport. Culturally they are different, they appeal to different sections of boxing fans yet they have both made themselves cross over stars. To many this bout is boxing's equivalent to the ultimate “good guy” Vs “bad guy” battle. Most importantly however they are seen not as contrasting men outside of the ring but also as contrasting men inside the ring. One has been a slippery counter puncher, a man who is so elusive in the ring that many describe him as the greatest defensive fighter ever whilst the other is an offensive buzzsaw who sliced through many of the sports premier names in destructive fashion.
Is that's last point that makes this bout what is it is. The best defensive fighter against one of the best offensive fighters. On paper we will find what is ultimately better, a sensational offence or a near unbreakable defense.
In the eyes of many Mayweather is the “bad guy” of boxing. He has spent time in jail and been involved in various out of the ring activities. He has happily told us he's “The Best Ever” and although incredibly talented he has made many fans tune in to see him lose. On the other hand he's an example of what boxing is truly about, he's a master in the sweet science and one of the best at hitting and not being hit. We won't pretend he's the most exciting fighter on the planet but it is magical to see him at his best, slipping shots and landing laser like counters, rolling the shoulder to just avoid a blow and making an opponent pay for having the gall to try and hit him.
Whilst Mayweather isn't evil he has happily painted himself into the corner of being the man many pay to hate. He is, to use a wrestling term, a “heel” and it's a role that he seems to be happy with having. It's a role that's allowed him to make so much money that he now goes by the moniker of “Money”.
To those same fans Pacquiao is the “good guy”, he's the family man, a man of the people and a national icon who has set his intentions on making a difference via the politics of his homeland. He has used his money to help his countrymen and has come across as a humble person, happy to be able to use his talent to further the lives of those less fortunate. Not only has he been a positive person outside of the ring but inside of it he is known for giving fans what they want with destructive performances of aggression. In terms of excitement there are few who can match the excitement Pacquiao has generated over he course of his career with his combinations, knockouts and brutal beat downs.
Again to use a wrestling analogy Pacquiao is the “baby face” though that's a role that he's formed more organically that Mayweather's “heel” persona. Pacquiao has become a by simply being a personable person as opposed to telling the world that he's a nice person.
The contrasts however go on and on. For example Mayweather is happy to tell the world he's his own boss, Pacquiao on the other hand has been open about being a fighter with Bob Arum as his boss. In many ways the only things they have in common is their chosen profession and their claim to being an all-time great.
When it comes to the actual fight we expect the action to start slowly. Whilst the men are massively different they are both respectful of their opponent. Neither man wants to make a mistake early. For the first few rounds it will be a frustrating affair to watch with neither man really letting their offense go. For Mayweather that's perfect in many ways with the fight being fought more at his pace, it will however limit his eye catching counters with Pacquiao giving fewer opportunities that than the American would have hoped for. Whilst Pacquiao will be able to frustrate Mayweather by being restrained he won't be imposing himself or his style, at least not from the off.
We expect the pace to heat up from round 4. That's typically the point where Mayweather begins to find his groove but also the point in the fight where Pacquiao will have to come alive. From then on we're expecting to see the great bursts of Pacquiao's offense against Mayweather's great defense. The bursts of 4 or 5 shots will keep Mayweather in his defensive shell, though openings will begin to appear in Pacquiao's defense. From then on things will become very interesting with both men unsure how the judges will score things. Will they be scoring for Pacquiao, who will be the aggressor, or for Mayweather who will be landing the better shots? That is anyone's guess and it's what will make the latter part of the fight so interesting.
Mayweather's biggest problem in recent fights has been his habit of cruising through rounds, especially late on. At 38 his energy isn't going to be what it once was and although he has great stamina he has been able to fight at his own pace against fighters with slow foot movement. Against Pacquiao he'll be rushed, he won't have the time to take a breather and he'll be fighting someone with similar footspeed. If he tries to take rounds off here it will bite him. Instead we expect Mayweather will have to fight for at least 2 minutes of every round and that will show later on as both men bite down on their gum shields and try to force the judges hands. We'll see Mayweather fighting more than he has done in years and we'll Pacquiao showing some of the fire many thought was gone.
We suspect that, come the final bell, it'll be anyone's guess as to who has done enough. Fans will back “their man” and feel like their guy has just done enough. Of course however it'll lay on the judges and we'd not be shocked to see any type of scorecards. That's partly because boxing throws up some weird scorecards and also partly the fact that we can see how both men win.
As a prediction we will edge with the younger man, Pacquiao to take a razor thin and highly controversial decision. The bout, whilst good, will fail to live up to expectation in the ring and although records will be shattered we won't be able to help but think it was this generation's Hagler Vs Leonard as opposed to the real mega fighter it could have been. Strangely we see the post-fight outcome also mirroring the Hagler Vs Leonard bout with Mayweather retiring after the contest, something we'd also expect him to do if he won.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.